How to support your employees' mental health during the holiday season?

How to support your employees' mental health during the holiday season?

We’re living amidst possibly the greatest time where the nature of the corporate work culture is very global. It’s no longer limited to a specific country, profession, or time zone. This has resulted in a beautiful and dynamic cultural exchange all over the world. Festivals are also being celebrated on a bigger scale and platform.

Soon the spirit of the holiday season will also start reflecting in the work environment of the organizations. Some organizations can also have their offsite or fun activities planned for the employees during such time

As the time approaches the end of the year, it brings up a lot of emotions for everyone. For some, it is exciting and full of socializing events while for others it is anxiety-provoking and isolating. No two people will have the same emotions about a particular event and it is natural for it to be that way.

While celebrating the spirits, it is important to be inclusive and considerate of everyone’s mental well-being and offer plans in such a way that they encourage inclusion and emotional safety for everyone. This is also the time to go a little extra mile to ensure that your employees feel comfortable and safe in the space and environment that they are in.

Let’s suppose that Christina in your company lives quite far from her family in Mumbai. She cannot go home because her hometown is in Meghalaya which is very far from Mumbai. The ticket prices are unaffordable and she has 2 important client meetings that she has been trying to get for the last 4 months. She misses her family and wants to be with them for Christmas but cannot.

In a situation like this, it is very natural that Christina is going to feel low, she may not be able to focus at work, and celebrations at home may end up triggering her memories of her past Christmas celebrations with her family back home. It can also make feel left out. It does not only impact her performance at work but can also make her feel ‘alone’, ‘isolated’, and ‘lonely’ in a room full of people. Take a minute to think about all the ways in which you can offer support to Christina during such a challenging time. 

Here are some tips you can use to navigate through situations like this and make sure your employees feel seen, heard, and supported by you and the organization.

Focus on the ‘little’ things

It is true that the little things always hold the maximum magnitude. The support you wish to provide to your employees does not necessarily have to be direct i.e. through the means of incentives. It can be subtle and indirect also. You can sit down with your employees for lunch, ask them about their families, or ask them to show their family picture or a picture of their pet. Gestures like this go a long way and help in creating a personalized bond with the person.

Acknowledge their attendance

Please do not make the mistake of taking their availability for granted. Your employees may get the required work done but what they are ‘feeling’ while getting the work done is also important to acknowledge. They may be sad or lonely on the inside. Make sure you acknowledge their presence in the office during holidays. It can be a tough and challenging period for them and yet they are choosing to be working during such time. Gestures like leaving a small gratitude or appreciation note on their day can make their day at least 4 times better. 

Be more flexible

Whenever possible, try to implement flexibility regarding mode of work, working hours, submission dates, and deadlines. If something can wait, let it wait. 

Offer DIY recreational spaces

Along with the work reviews and feedback sessions, have some dedicated spaces where employees can unwind and reflect. A great idea to offer such space is to convert one of the conference rooms into a DIY recreational room where employees can go and spend time journaling, listening to music, enjoying a hot cup of coffee, or simply relaxing in a chair. 

Take breaks together

Long hours at work be it offline or online can get quite overwhelming especially if you are amongst the only few people working. Try to assign breaks where all the employees can gather to stretch, do a small fun activity together in groups, or simply play a game to disconnect from work temporarily. Being a part of small groups can help with the difficult feelings of loneliness and sadness. It will also give employees a unique opportunity to share a thing or two with co-workers if they want. 

Respect privacy

Let’s understand that some people may like to avoid all of the above things and simply be by themselves. It is okay to let employees choose what works best for them because they know themselves better than anyone else. But if you see someone struggling or going in a spiral, being too alone and clueless, gently remind them that they can use professional help  to talk about all of this and more. A therapist can help them become equipped with the right tools to navigate these challenges.